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A lawyer by profession, Brandt was Personal Administrative Officer to the Reichsführer-SS (Persönlicher Referent vom Reichsführer SS) Heinrich Himmler, and a defendant at the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg for his part in securing the 86 victims of the Jewish skeleton collection, an attempt to create an anthropological display of plaster body casts and skeletal remains of Jewish Untermenschen.
Life and work
Rudolf Brandt, the son of a railway worker, was born on June 2, 1909, and raised in modest circumstances in the town of Frankfurt an der Oder. Brandt was a member of the student's stenography (shorthand) club at the Realgymnasium, and in 1927, at the age of 18, won a competition with a transcription speed of 360 syllables per minute.
He attended the University of Berlin and the University of Jena (1928–1932), simultaneously working from 1928 to 1930 as a court reporter at the Provisional National Economic Council. Brandt would continue to practice stenography in the evenings with his colleague and former Frankfurt schoolmate Gerhard Herrgesell.
Brandt was awarded a Law Degree from the University of Jena in July 1933. He joined the Nazi party in January 1932 (NSDAP 1 331 536) and the SS in October 1933 (SS 129 771) (*1). By February 1934, Brandt and his skills in transcription were noticed by Heinrich Himmler, who had him transferred to his staff. (*3)
In 1936, Brandt was named Leiter des Persönlichen Stabes RFSS, and in 1937, Persönlicher Referent des RFSS, a position he held until May 1945. In this position Brandt handled Himmler's entire correspondence with the exception of matters pertaining to the Waffen SS or the Police.
- "Because of his ability as a perfect stenographer, his punctuality, his untiring diligence, he became Himmler's convenient and omnipresent registering, reminding and writing machine, complaining about being overworked, and on the other hand, declaring with pride that he had to produce 3000 – 4000 outgoing letters per year."
- "Brandt would begin work at seven in the morning, no matter what time he had gone to bed the night before. Three or four hours of sleep were sufficient for him. As soon as Himmler had risen in the morning and washed, Brandt would go to him loaded with papers and files, and while Himmler shaved he would read him the most important items of the morning’s mail. This was done with the greatest seriousness. If there was bad news, Brandt would preface it by saying, ”Pardon, Herr Reichsführer,” and thus forewarned, Himmler would temporarily suspend his shaving operations: a precautionary measure to prevent cutting himself. Brandt was certainly most important. He was the eyes and ears of his master and the manner in which he presented a matter to Himmler was often of decisive importance."
From 1938, Rudolf Brandt was Ministerial Councilor and Head of the Minister's Office in the Reich Ministry of the Interior.
Brandt was a member of the entourage which accompanied Himmler into hiding, leaving Flensberg on May 10, 1945, with the vague goal of attempting to reach Bavaria. He became separated from Himmler and surrendered along with most of the party to British troops on May 21. Himmler was captured, though not identified on May 22, along with his Waffen SS aides, Werner Grothmann and Heinz Macher.
Brandt watched from inside the wire at the Westertimke detention camp when Himmler was brought in with his aides on May 23, 1945. It was then that Himmler identified himself to the camp commandant. Himmler committed suicide later that evening when he bit down on the cyanide ampule about to be discovered by the British Physician.
Trial and execution
Rudolf Brandt was indicted after the war by the US Military Tribunal, on charges of:
- Conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity;
- War crimes, to wit performing medical experiments without the subjects' consent on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, as well as participation in the mass-murder of concentration camp inmates;
- Crimes against humanity: committing crimes described under count 2 also on German nationals; and
- Membership in a criminal organization, the SS.
Brandt, in common with most of the defendants at the Doctor's Trial, was acquitted on the first count as the Tribunal felt that it fell outside their jurisdiction.
He was found guilty on the other three counts, as he had been responsible for the administration and coordination of the experiments at the camps. He was hanged on June 2, 1948, his 39th birthday.
The career of Erik Dorf in the 1978 miniseries Holocaust, mirrors that of Brandt. Both were lawyers by profession, both were administrative aides to top SS leaders, and both performed a clerical role in the unfolding of the Final Solution.
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- "Medical Case Tribunal Nuremberg Indictment" at www.ess.uwe.ac.uk
- Fragebogen zur Erlangung der Verlobungsgenehmigung; RS-Akte, BArch.-Berlin.
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 10321 (28 June 1947) Gerhard Herrgesell (Judge of local court).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 4997 (26 March 1947) Luitpold Schallermeier (assistant to Karl Wolff in Himmler's office, Waffen SS).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 10321 (28 June 1947) Sepp Tiefenbacher (friend of Rudolf Brandt).
- Trial Transcript Citation: Trial Name: NMT 01. Medical Case - USA v. Karl Brandt, et al., English Transcript: p. 4828 (21 March 1947) p. 4997 (26 March 1947) Walter Schellenberg (Gestapo, RSHA; Brigade-Fuehrer, Waffen SS).
- The Labyrinth, Memoirs of Walter Schellenberg, Harper and Brothers, 1956.